Book Cover Design Dos and Don’ts

28 Apr

Last week, I discussed the basics of how to set up your book cover–how to size it, how to add bleed, and how wide to make the spine.

I’d like to depart from the technical stuff and focus more on the design aspect of setting up a book cover.

So, this week I’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts in book cover design. Some of these are technical (like image resolution) but many of them are based solely on opinion. Feel free to argue with me or add your own tips!

  • DO avoid white backgrounds or very light backgrounds, unless you’re going to add images and colorful text.


  • DO try to keep it simple. Images and text add visual interest to your book cover and give the reader information but remember that sometimes LESS is MORE. Simplistic covers are often the most sophisticated.
  • DO use fonts that are easy to read. If you can’t read your book title from a few feet away, it’s probably too small or too complex.
  • DON’T use too many different fonts. (Avoid using more than 2 different fonts if possible):

  • DO use photos or illustrations. Sometimes an image can convey more information than several lines of text! (A picture is worth a thousand words, right?)
  • DON’T use blurry images or stretch images so that they’re larger than they were originally–these won’t print well. If you want to learn about image resolution, I go into more detail on that here. Likewise, make sure your text doesn’t look blurry or stretched:

  • DON’T use too many different colors.
  • DO use colors that contrast and avoid neon colors:

  • DO decide what audience you’re trying to target. Think about what would get their attention and make sure your images and wording are audience-appropriate.
  • DO think about what tone or mood you want to convey with your design. Make sure this matches the tone or mood of your actual book.
  • DON’T make your font too small–or too large. Try printing one line of text on a piece of paper at several different sizes to get ideas. In my opinion, if your font is smaller than 11 pt. on your cover, it’s too small to read.
  • DON’T stretch the font or make it very large on the back of your book to fill space:

  • DON’T write a book on the back of your book. A few short paragraphs about the author, a summary of the book, or quotes about the book help draw readers to your book–but if there’s too much information, you may lose their interest.
  • DO add texture, but
  • DON’T place text over a textures if it may be difficult to read. Try adding a semi-transparent bar of color to help your text pop:

  • DO print one copy of your book before printing a large run–this way, you’ll know that you’re happy with the way the colors, images, and text appear when printed.
  • DO get opinions from others and ask for help if you need it!
  • DO look at lots of book covers beforehand to get inspired.

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